Darris McDaniel and Ray Caldwell own the Shop-n-Kart grocery store in Yard Birds. In 1998 they purchased the entire building and have been working hard to maintain the character of Yard Birds. Bob Gilbert was brought on as Building Manger and has been a huge help for us in putting our movie together. Darris and Bob even loaned us an office space to record interviews when they hosted a employee reunion.
Darris was nomenated for a Better Business Bureau award and Bob Gilbert wrote this letter on his behalf.
May 13, 2009
Most people today would think twice about purchasing a store or business that had been flooded and no obvious improvements had been made since that time. Darris McDaniel and Ray Caldwell did just the opposite when purchasing the ShopnKart grocery store located in Yardbirds Mall and then in 1999 purchasing the entire Mall.
A mall with a unique history and an iconic reputation. Stories about the Mall can be found on websites as www.roadsideamerica as well as other sites showing the story about the 64 foot tall Yardbird that burned when a car backfired between his legs, or the story of how the existing bird sitting in front of the current Mall is really a helicopter garage from the previous owner.
Yardbirds Mall is not a run of the mill same as everyone else kind of a Mall. You would find as I did when I had a Yardbirds Employee reunion, that this store has affected the community and many families lives for many years. During that special weekend 2 years ago, many old friends and former employees were reunited for free hotdogs and pop and storytelling.
Many people were interviewed and put on film for a movie that is currently in production about the Yardbirds Mall. In fact Yardbirds Mall is about the community of Chehalis and the surrounding area. This community spirit and dedication is shown in the way Darris and Ray run the Mall and grocery store. The flood that they went through in December 2008 and again in January 2009 shows their dedication to the community and the City in which they live.
During the flood of 2007 I was one of the employees stranded on the second floor as water came rushing through the doors. And as I watched the flood waters devastate the people inside and totally engulf the grocery store to a depth of 6 feet, I wondered how can anyone survive such a devastation.
There were 17 of us on the second floor as the phone rang, it was Darris wanting to know if all were safe and secure. When he was asked what he was going to do, he without hesitation said, “we are going to rebuild”.
You can’t imagine the feelings that went through the hearts of those 17 people as in their minds at that time, they were waiting for the water to recede so that they could get back to work.. Looking at pictures merely tells a visual of the story, not the heartfelt part that affected so many lives.
We were on national TV as people around the world got to see the large bird in front of the Mall sitting casually in water as if nothing was amiss. But as the waters receded, it was just the beginning as Darris and Ray kept employees on the payroll to help build and clean the store as an all out effort was put forth to get back open for the community.
Once again pictures as in “The Flood of 2007” published by the Chronicle, merely tell a visual story. As work proceeded, Darris heard how FEMA needed a place to set up shop and without hesitation he volunteered the second floor for both FEMA as well as the SBA to help the community. He then became involved with the furniture program with Emergency Management, wherein furniture was brought here for distribution to needy families. It looked great on the TV news as convoys of donated furniture came to Yardbirds Mall to be given out to Flood victims. Never was even a dime asked for because it was for the community.
You can imagine the repairs that needed to be done as sheetrock had to be torn out, allowed to dry and replaced. This was all being done as the Emergency Crews handled the needs of the area. After about 5 months, it was about over, but the repairs went on as flood related items just seemed to keep showing up.
About December 2009, we were getting our second breath as the rains began again. As we watched the weather, another 500 year flood was approaching, the community was going under water again. Darris had a little more warning this time as the evacuation of food, machinery and electronics began to the second floor. But water was on the move and so was this community spirit as hundreds of individuals and groups called Yardbirds Mall and Darris to see how they could help.
The prediction was for 8 foot, 2 foot higher than last year. We got most moved up as employees and the community worked round the clock to head off the devastation that we knew was headed our way. This time though as we got word of the waters going over the banks and I-5 being closed, all we could do was wait.
Again I was on the second floor as I watched the water moving across the parking lot. Just like last time, all we could do was watch and wonder what would our fate be. This time though the water was moving slower and we had left the doors open on the river side of the building. We shut all of the electricity off to the entire building as we anticipated the 8 feet of water.
This time though Darris was here on the second floor with us. I can only imagine what was going through his mind as the waters reached the door sills and started into the building. But Darris as well as his partner is an upbeat man and just talking with him, you would never realize the spot we were in. As the water started into the building all we could do was go to bed on the floor and hospital beds in storage and wait.
The next morning as I went to the landing to look at our problem, I was surprised to see the water rushing out our open doors and heading back to the river. Water had only gotten about 2 foot deep, and even though a flood is a flood, we had weathered another one. Darris was ready to start moving items and electronics back to the first floor as his partner Ray was already pressure washing and sanitizing the grocery part of the store.
Again an outpouring from the communiity was obvious as the phone rang constantly with volunteers that wanted to help. The procession of the carts went back to the ground floor. With all of the hard work and community spirit, we were open and serving our customers in 3 days. Truly amazing.
And then came the call from Ross McDowell with emergency management, FEMA and SBA again needed a home. Darris just told them DO IT.
We hear of Southsound Mall, Tacoma Mall, Walmart Supermall, but believe me there will never again be another Yardbirds Mall. I commend Mr Darris McDaniel and his Partner Ray Caldwell truly individuals that care about their community and its people.. I am Bob Gilbert, the current Manager of the Yardbirds Mall and feel privileged to know Darris and Ray.Bob Gilbert